TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India 2: How TIC and RISC facilitate Education

The purpose of education is to empower children with the requisite tools to go through life with the appropriate knowledge to make the right decisions. Not only is education important, computer education too is critical considering the role that technology plays in our lives, and is likely to play in the coming years. While no computer can replace a good teacher, it is not always possible to get good teachers in schools in developing nations, especially in the interiors. This is where computer-enabled education can complement the teacher in the classroom. Besides, a digital library and the Internet can help enhance and widen the learning process. It would be nice to see some of the scientific concepts brought alive through animations, making for a richer and more interactive learning.

A school is an ideal location for a TeleInfoCentre (TIC) because it is already seen as a bastion of knowledge, and is respected by most people. The TIC can be located at every primary and secondary school. During school hours, the computers are used to complement the teacher in providing IT and IT-enabled education to the students. After school hours, the centre can provide community services, some of which can be priced. This approach has multiple benefits:

  • Computers will attract students to schools. As has been said: You bring computers into schools, you bring children to schools.
  • During school hours, the multiple computers in the TIC become educational terminals for the children, complementing the teacher. The computers can also assist in personalising the education based on the student, which a single teacher catering to multiple levels of students. Thus, for example, the computer could remember the hardspots of students and test them on those to ensure they learn better.
  • After school-hours, the computers could be used for various community services, thus serving the needs of the village as a whole. This ensures that no additional infrastructure is needed.
  • By locating the TIC in the school, the image of the school and interest of the community in the school itself are both increased. This heightened participation will also result in better education for the children.
  • The same TIC platform can be used to provide literacy for the village residents.
  • The Entrepreneur managing the TIC could be the school teacher, who could be provided the appropriate training. This will also result in greater respect for the school teacher in the village.
  • In addition, various youths can be provided with possible jobs in data entry and other related areas, providing the prospect of using the village TICs as resources for IT-enabled services at the village-level. This employment opportunity will further create a positive environment for education.

    We saw earlier that the monthly operating cost of a TIC-3 is Rs 9,447 while that of a TIC-10 is Rs 18,587. If a TIC-3 supports 100 students and a TIC-10 supports 1,000 students, on the assumption that each student can spend Rs 20 per month on computer and computer-enabled education, the TIC-3 will thus generate Rs 2,000 per month from education, while the TIC-10 will generate Rs 20,000 per month from education. Thus, by itself, the TIC-3 will need to generate an additional income of about Rs 7,500 per month for breakeven, while the TIC-10 can completely break-even on earnings from education itself (generating a surplus of about Rs 1,500 per month).

    A TIC-3 is most likely to be at a primary school, while a TIC-10 is most likely to be at a secondary school. Primary schools are present in almost every village. Thus, the TIC-3 may need to be partially subsidized by the government if the earnings from the other services are not enough. This is to be seen as an investment in primary education.

    There are multiple ways by which the TIC can generate additional revenue which can bring down the cost of student education:

  • The TIC can charge a fixed subscription fee for a base set of services (eg. adult education, email, email, etc.)
  • The TIC can take up data entry jobs or other such work to better leverage the computers that it has.
  • The state / district can pay for some of the services that it uses. For example, on account of the TICs, the information collection and dissemination costs can be reduced. Part of those savings could be channelised through to the TIC.
  • Some funds could be allocated from the village for the operation of the TIC, since the village administration will also be a significant user and beneficiary.
  • Additional services can be offered for the villagers beyond the base set, which can result in more revenue.
  • Advertisements can be shown on the screens to create a revenue stream from companies interested in reaching the rural markets.

    By making computers available in schools at the point of delivery of education, TICs thus play a critical role in the facilitation of primary and secondary education. In addition, the same platform can be used for delivery of adult and vocational education.

    The Rural Infrastructure and Services Commons (RISC) centre, which would be within a distance of 10-15 kilometres of the TICs, would function as a local support center. The RISC is where teacher training can be conducted on a regular basis. Given the current state of the infrastructure in villages, the creation of RISC precedes or at least goes hand in hand with TIC in villages.

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    TECH TALK Transforming Rural India+T

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.